In mid 2018 I bought a Merida Big Nine 600 cross country 29er mountain bike. I was determined to participate and get top 10 in the national mtb championship being held in October the same year. It is now a mullet trail bike with a real knack for gnar. Let’s start this story shall we.
A Brief Bike Check
A Stock Big Nine
The bike is a 29er mountain bike with a Sram Nx drivetrain, 90mm +-0 rise stem, 720mm bars, and Tektro hydraulic brakes.
She was named Kyanite, a deep blue gemstone.
The bike felt bulky, sluggish, stable in corners…a little too stable. It felt more like road biking where you’re seated almost all throughout. I did not like the feel at all. Something needed to be done, This bike should be capable up and down the trails.
So it was time to switch some parts around!
The First Wave Of Upgrades
Tyres will be swapped a week later
For some odd reason I prefer to have my XC bikes more trail capable compared to the traditional XC bike. so the first upgrades I had made were to mount Vittoria Goma Trail Tyres, Controltech Lynx 50mm +-0 rise stem, 32T chainring, and…I’m not sure I should write the next item if I wish not to be attacked by the XC community…so that’s exactly what I’ll do! A DROPPER POST! oh yeah!
This first wave of upgrades made the bike a lot more playful and active, especially the dropper post and the tyres however, I had to sacrifice weight and acceleration for grip. The tyres were heavy and added to rolling weight significantly but at the same time it gave me more control over the bike. It was time for the National Championship!
The 2018 MTB Nats
I’m not going to go into detail about the races and whatnot. the course was a simple climb with a short super steep, dry, loose, and rocky downhill trail till the base, from then on it was undulating terrain till the paved sector. This is where the bike shined! with relation to most of the field, I was able to ride down the course without the fear of the Bucking Bronco effect. while climbing I was a able to hold on well enough. Race done, 6th in U18 XCO.
XC to Trail Riding
By June 2019 I had gotten a new full suspension XC bike, Specialized Epic Expert.
At this point, my full squish had more capabilities than my hardtail and I knew the hardtail would start to face less and less use. Kyanite had been through a lot of shit and for that reason it would be almost impossible to sell the bike at a price which would help recover some of the cost while still being reasonable about the pricing.
There are only two options, swallow the cost and give the bike away, or upgrade the geometry and components once more! This time, let’s make it trail worthy!
First things first, bars, stem, and grips.
I need to make my body position more upright when riding, so I got wide riser bars. I got 3T 780mm riser bars with a 30mm rise and a 9 degree backsweep. (for anyone confused, a riser bar is a handlebar with the sides being elevated from the stem mounting point by a certain height, the rise in this case is 30mm. 780mm denotes the end to end width of the bars, and the backsweep denotes the angle made by the end of the bar sweeping back from the mounting point.) I also added Specialized enduro grips for a comfy feel.
Next up, the stem. I brought my body further back and pitched up by shortening my stem from 50mm to 40mm this time with an added 6 degree rise. This really brought the bike to life in a whole new way, I could do so much that I wouldn’t dare try before.
something felt wrong still…something big…THE FORK!
The fork is an odd proprietary model of the Manitou Marvel Comp. Unlike the actual marvel comp, this fork had very bad feel, little to no adjustment, and really shitty travel. The terrible cherry on top was that it was a 70 degree headtube angle. All I wanted to do was get a slacker headtube angle even 68 is good enough. I couldn’t afford to purchase a new fork though or angle adjust headsets. that’s when a disaster and blessing occured, I broke my rear wheel after botching a landing badly. This of course meant that I required a new rim…Wait a second…If i put a smaller rear wheel…the bike would pivot giving me a lower bottom bracket height for better cornering, and slacken the head tube angle…EUREKA!
I got to crunching numbers and mapping geometry to see whether changing the rear wheel to a smaller size would work within the safe range of my bike’s design limitations. I got to work installing a smaller rear wheel out back and BOOM!
I’m no good at low light phone photography
Playful, strong, fast, agile, stable, and extremely fun!
I now have a trail machine!
Built to perfection
I have chosen not to bore you with numbers and rather instead with words. If you’d like to see the numbers, drop a comment!
And that’s it!